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One small change, one giant leap for your health

The new buzz in wellbeing circles? Micro-actions. Our readers tell us about the tweaks they’ve made that have helped change their outlook for good


ajor health or fitness goals can be insanely hard to even get started on – let alone follow through. Frankly, we’re more likely to see Victoria Beckham papped in her dressing gown than stick to them. One skipped workout or boozy night can be enough to make you want to throw in the towel faster than you can say #fitspiration. But a new trend in health circles – called micro-actions – is set to change all that. These are tweaks to your diet, health or fitness routine that can have a big impact. The theory is that if we break down challenges into more manageable chunks – such as running a short distance regularly, rather than tackling a 10k head-on – we’re more likely to achieve them. And baby steps can have major results: did you know running for just 5-10 minutes a day* is associated with markedly reduced risks of death from all causes? With that wow fact in mind, check out how our readers made micro-actions work for them…

‘I have my tea and coffee “naked”’


Lucy Jolin, 42, lecturer, Buckinghamshire

‘Two years ago, I tried on a dress I’d planned to wear to a wedding and it was a bit… snug. I don’t believe in fad diets, so cutting out sugar from my five daily cups of tea and coffee seemed like an achievable, small change. Since then, I’ve lost a stone and a half! People comment on how good my skin looks, I have loads of energy and I’m sleeping better, too.’

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‘Becoming a “lark” has improved my sleep habits’


Jacqui Paterson, 43, social media strategist, Buckinghamshire

‘I’d often collapse into bed between 1.30am and 3.30am – and with my daughters (aged 8 and 10) up at 7am, that meant five-and-a-half hours’ sleep a night (or often less, due to everyday stresses keeping me awake). I’d massively scaled back my business when I’d had children, so when my youngest started school in September 2015, it was my chance to really get it going again – but I was barely able to keep on top of things.


One evening in April 2016, exhausted, I went to bed at 8.30pm, setting my alarm for 5am so I could tackle some work before the girls woke up. That morning, I got more done in two hours than I’d usually achieve in two days.


Now, I’m in bed at 10.30pm and up by 5.30am. With no distractions, I can tick off a big chunk of my to-do list by the time the girls are awake. Plus, I earn more because I can complete projects quicker and follow up new opportunities. My sleep issues are sorted, too. I’m an absolute convert.’

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‘I stopped drinking on “school” nights’


Heidi Scrimgeour, 40, media trainer, County Antrim

‘Enjoying wine with my husband on a Friday night had morphed into opening a bottle on Thursdays, as it was “nearly the weekend”. Then, last year, I went sober for three months, to help me feel healthier – the alcohol had been leading to interrupted sleep, so I’d wake up feeling tired and dehydrated. But this was a bit too “feast or famine” for the long term, so I started a “weekends only” rule. As well as helping me sleep better, there’s been an unexpected bonus: now when I do open a bottle of wine, I drink less.’

Try this: Swap wine for sugar-free Nuva Spring Water With Cucumber & Mint, £1.29/129 points (500ml).

‘I became an Insta-foodie’


Lara Mayger, 27, project manager, High Wycombe

‘Despite exercising regularly, my body wasn’t changing because my diet was so bad. So, taking recipe inspiration from some of my favourite health and fitness experts on social media, I started posting pictures of my healthier meals on Instagram and documented my journey on a blog ( Searching for recipes and looking through my photos helped me to stay focused on eating well. In eight months, I dropped a jeans size! I still post my meals every couple of days, to inspire myself and others.’

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‘I took up “streaking”’


Sarah Guy, 43, sales assistant, London
‘I’ve been running for more than 20 years, but I was doing it less and less often. So I decided to try to push myself day by day, instead of having a major goal. I started “streak” running – a minimum of one mile every day. After 113 days, my heart rate has improved, I can cover a mile in just over eight minutes, and I’ve lost 4lbs. I streak at different times, depending on what’s going on – I always have my kit with me, so I can hit the road whenever I get the chance. It fits into my life, so I know I’ll stick with it.’

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Expert Advice


Emma Kenny


The secrets of success: how to make micro-actions work for you

‘My advice is to make them personal. Instead of saying “I’ll give up carbs”, tailor the resolution to your individual habits. You could say, “I’ll give up snacking on crisps before dinner”. Based on a small (35g) bag of crisps, this can save around 170 calories a day – that’s 1,190 a week! It’s far more achievable (and healthier) than a blanket ban on carbohydrates. Think about how your micro-action will change you and the way it will improve your health, which will make it relatable to your life.


If you’ve fallen off the wagon or your willpower is wavering, don’t panic. Sometimes mistakes are lessons in disguise. If you’re regularly struggling, think about whether what you’re doing is really a micro-action. But the best news? When you succeed in one area of self-improvement – no matter how small – you’ll be more motivated to work on other areas, because you’ll feel you’re in a cycle of success.’

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*If you have a medical condition or haven’t exercised for a long time, consult your GP before undertaking a new regime, and stop if you feel uncomfortable. **Available in selected stores. † Emma is a psychologist at online fitness community

Words Katrina Harper-Lewis Photography Getty Images, Pixeleyes


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